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Lakers Rumors: Darvin Ham to Have 'More Power' to Bench Russell Westbrook in Games

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVAugust 3, 2022

AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

The wonky fit between Russell Westbrook and the Los Angeles Lakers could take another contentious turn this season if the veteran point guard finds himself benched late in games.

According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic: "Lakers head coach Darvin Ham will have more power to bench Westbrook down the stretch of games, according to league sources. (Former head coach Frank Vogel did so a few times last season). That could eventually extend to removing Westbrook from the starting lineup as well."

That won't be an issue if Westbrook is traded before the season, of course, but up until this point, such a deal hasn't come to fruition.

Given how poorly Westbrook fit with the Lakers last campaign, that still feels like a real possibility. The 33-year-old averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game, fine numbers in a vacuum but a drop-off for a player who averaged at least 21.0 points a game for the prior 11 seasons and won an MVP in the 2016-17 season.

Add in that Westbrook shot just 29.8 percent from three and 66.7 percent from the free-throw line—or that the Lakers were outscored by four points per 100 possessions last season when Westbrook was on the floor, per NBA.com, a number that dropped to being outscored by 1.6 points per 100 possessions when he sat—and the numbers don't paint a pretty picture.

Neither did Westbrook's regular appearances on Shaqtin' A Fool.

Amid all of that, Westbrook's ball-dominant style and lack of floor spacing made him an awkward fit next to LeBron James.

Reports emerged this offseason that the trio of Westbrook, James and Anthony Davis spoke on the phone during Las Vegas Summer League, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, with "each expressing their commitment to one another and vowing to make it work."

That doesn't make the basketball fit any less wonky, however. And that might mean that the Lakers' best lineup doesn't include Westbrook, which could lead Ham to experimenting with Westbrook on the bench late in games.

It's hard to imagine the nine-time All-Star taking that decision well. But it's the sort of potential drama that makes the Lakers such an apt inhabitant of Tinseltown.

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